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It's an ordinary nightmare of a family trip until Theo realizes that the beautiful girl beside the hotel pool is his childhood babysitter, and his first crush. Theo hasn't seen Ronnie for five years, but when she invites him to go with her, and her toddler son, Zach, on a road trip, he leaps at the opportunity to ditch his parents and head to Hollywood. They've only gone a few miles before Theo begins to regret his impulsive decision. Zach cries nonstop, and when they get pulled over by the police, Ronnie is clearly terrified. She says her ex-boyfriend is a cop and that he is looking for her. Theo wants to trust her, but he suspects she is hiding something. And when they reach Los Angeles and she disappears, leaving him to look after Zach, he needs to find out the truth, and decide where his loyalties lie.
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Robin Stevenson
Copyright ©2013Robin Stevenson
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Stevenson, Robin,1968 Damage [electronic resource] / Robin Stevenson. (Orca soundings)
Electronic monograph. Issued also in print format. isbn 9781459803619 (pdf).isbn 9781459803626 (epub)
I. Title. II. Series: Orca soundings (Online) ps8637.t487d36 2013jc813.6 c20129074810
First published in the United States,2013 Library of Congress Control Number:2012952957
Summary:What starts out as a harmless road trip becomes a desperate search for the truth.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Cover photography by Getty Images
orca book publishers po Box 5626,Stn. B Victoria, bcCanadav8r 6s4
orca book publishers po Box 468 Custerusa, wa 982400468
C h a p t e r O n e
From where I sat, the view was pretty sweet. Above me was a wide-open sky without even a trace of a cloud. In front of me, the pool shimmered cool, clear and blue. To my left, a line of palm trees bordered the motel courtyard. All very California—but none of it compared with the view to my right. From behind the mirrored lenses of my sunglasses,
Robin Stevenson
I sneaked yet another peek at the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I kid you not. This girl was dazzling in a way that no one is dazzling in real life. She looked Photoshopped. Her wet hair was slicked back from her face, a white towel was draped across her tanned shoulders, and her long bare legs were stretched out in front of her. There was something oddly familiar about her. Maybe she was a famous actress or a model or something… though you wouldn’t expect to find a famous person at a cheap highway motel. Whoever she was, she was breathtaking. And there she was, in a red bikini, sitting three plastic lounge chairs away from me. Too bad the two chairs between us were occupied by the reclining, swim-suit-clad bodies of my mother and father. I heard a splash behind me and turned around. A dark-haired toddler
was holding an upside-down red bucket and staring at me solemnly. I smiled at him, and his eyes opened a little wider, but he didn’t say anything. I looked around for a parental îgure but didn’t see one. “Nice red bucket,” I said. Lame, I knew, but I didn’t have much experience with kids. “Mmm,” he agreed and then deliv-ered a long speech that I couldn’t understand. He might have said some-thing about unicorns, or possibly raisins, but I wasn’t sure. “Where’s your mom?” I was no expert on these things, but I was pretty sure he was too little to be at the pool by himself. “Sorry. Is he bothering you?” The girl from three chairs over sat up and beckoned to him. “Come here, Zach.” “No. I mean, it’s fine. He’s fine,”I stammered. “I mean, he’s not both-ering me. He was just telling me about
Robin Stevenson
his bucket. I think. Though he might have been saying something about raisins.” I sounded like an idiot.Shut up, Theo, shut up. “Ah. Raisins, huh?” She smiled, her lips parting to reveal white teeth. She had a slight overbite, which only the son of a dentist would notice. Even on vacation, Dad was compelled to point out every dental defect he observed. Not thatheroverbite was a defect. It suited her perfectly. As did her dark hair. And her full lips. And the dimple in her left cheek. “Mmm,” I said. If I kept my mouth shut, I couldn’t say anything stupid, right? “Zachy, did you want raisins?” She reached for a bag under her chair. “Are you hungry, Zach? Time for a snack?” “Raisins,” he said. “He’syours?” I couldn’t believe she had a kid. So much for my fantasy that
we might hook up—not that there’d been any real hope of that anyway. “I was watching him.” There was an edge to her voice. “I watch him all the time when we’re at the pool.” “I didn’t think you weren’t,” I said quickly. “Um, you just don’t look like a mom, that’s all.” She was still glaring at me. God,she looked familiar. I just couldn’t place where I’d seen her before.,maybe. She had to be someone famous. “And what exactly does a mom look like?” she asked. “I don’t…I didn’t mean…it’s not like I think there’s anything wrong with being a mom,” I said. “Just, you know, I thought you were my age. And I think of moms as, you know, older. Arrgh. Sorry.” I groaned, stood up and took off my sunglasses. “Can I start over? Please?” She raised one dark eyebrow.
Robin Stevenson
“I’m Theo. And that’s my mom and dad right there.” I pointed at them. They were both out cold, and Dad was snoring softly. “See? Way older.” She laughed. “Ronnie,” she said. “And I’m twenty-two.” “Yeah? Nice to meet you.” Should I add a couple of years and say I was nine-teen? Maybe she wouldn’t ask. “So, um, Ronnie…” Gears turned in some rusty part of my brain and something clicked, slid into place. “Oh my god.Ronnie?RonnieGleeson?” She stared at me, eyes wide. “Theo Dimitropolous,” I said. “You’re from Portland, right? You used to…” I trailed off. “Babysit you!” She crowed. “Theo! Holy crap. I can’t believe this. Look at you.” “Yeah, well…” I grabbed my damp towel from the lounger behind me and wrapped it around my waist.
“You were, like, ten years old the last time I saw you.” My face was on îre. “Yeah. Eleven, actually.” I’d been a nerdy kid obsessed withStar Wars, making stop-motion animation movies with my LEGO Millennium Falcon. My earliest fanta-sies had all been about Ronnie. Back then, I would’ve traded my whole Star Warsset for one action-figure glimpse of Ronnie in the bikini she waswearing right now. “I can’t believe this.” She shook her head slowly, staring at me. I hoped she wasn’t picturing me in my R2-D2 pajamas. “You moved away, right?” “Yeah, after grade eleven.” She made a face. “I înished high school in Seattle.” “I remember that. I was so bummed out when you left.” “Well, you didn’t really need a baby-sitter anymore.” She looked over at